December 5, 2011

Careless Hyperbole

Filed under: Christmas Time!,Decrees!,Youth Rights — Katrina @ 1:37 pm

I hereby decree…

It’s NOT “just like the Holocaust”!

A common rookie mistake. I’ve done it myself. It’s this need to justify your movement by comparing it to the Holocaust, to slavery, or whatever other Historical Bad Thing that everyone knows is Very Very Bad.

This needs to stop. Not only is the one who makes the comparison often ignorant of the thing they are comparing their issue to, not only can it make light of the compared atrocity, not only does it just piss people off more than anything else (and not in a way you’d want to piss them off), but it contributes nothing to the case and movement.

If the thing you’re trying to say is horrible is really as horrible as you believe (and it probably is, don’t get me wrong), then you can make that case in and of itself.

For example, at my car’s dealership, there are these Humane Society posters with what looks like a half-dog half-child figure, and the point is that people who are abusive to their pets are likely also abusive to their children. And that this is apparently a reason to save abused pets. Yeah, as a youth rights supporter, fuck you, Humane Society! Your point is saving pets, not children. Children are abused rampantly regardless of how the family dog is treated. In fact, the movement to protect abused animals started BEFORE there was ever one to protect abused children. I guarantee you there are active members of PETA who still go home and beat their children. Instead, you piggyback off a serious issue, that you erroneously assume everyone knows is bad (90% of parents hit their children, “everyone” my ass!), and use it to promote your unrelated one. And you don’t have to do this, because abuse of pets is plenty bad enough on its own and you can argue that easily without pretending saving pets means saving children.

And this careless messaging can cost supporters. Friend of a friend Jackie is a strong animals rights supporter and vegetarian and all, and she used to be a PETA member. Right up until they compared cattle slaughter to the Holocaust, that is. Is she opposed to cattle slaughter? Absolutely. But not in a “it’s just like my grandparents being in Auschwitz” sort of way.

Whoever came up with that message was probably thinking “well, anyone offended is just someone who doesn’t get the severity of cattle slaughter anyway”. Common assumption, but it’s more complicated than that. Again, I’m sure they have more reasons than “it’s just like the Holocaust” for opposing cattle slaughter. But none of those reasons is apparent when you make that comparison. Who sees a message like that and thinks “oh, really? I didn’t know that! I’ll sign up!”? And when explaining the comparison, you must be explaining what parallels you’re seeing, and in doing so listing off harsh treatment of cattle in slaughterhouses, in which case, you’re therefore stating your case and don’t need to be pretending Jews are cows! Not to mention that the meat-industry-is-genocide message is pointlessly offensive to those you’d need to convince (and thus wouldn’t feel inclined to seek you out to learn more), and they’d just walk away from you since you’d look crazy and stupid, and those who’d see it as apt already “get it” anyway so there’s no need.

Notice I said pointlessly offensive. Obviously, anyone seeking to make radical change is going to be offensive to many, or the change wouldn’t be needed in the first place. But there’s a difference in HOW to be offensive. When I tell you that your 17-year-old daughter is not your property and this offends you, good. You’re offended at my actual message, and any following arguments will actually be about that issue. If I tell you you’re treating your daughter just like plantation owners treated their slaves, then the offensiveness becomes about slavery and the ensuing argument drifts away from youth rights and becomes about the comparison itself and I’d just look dumb.

Another example is I saw a pro-Palestine Facebook page that kept posting images comparing Jews/Israelis to Nazis or otherwise portraying them as evil. And the ensuing comment thread after these images was their very pro-Palestine fans, many or most of them oppressed Palestinians themselves,… calling out the page for spreading hate and ridiculous comparisons. Because it not only detracts from the issue at hand, but spreading such hatred only adds fuel to the fire that perpetuates the Israel/Palestine problems. It is through massive hate and “othering” that crises like that happen, and many of that page’s fans knew this and were displeased. Gross anti-Israel statements like these may feel good to some people especially frustrated about what’s happening over there, but not a single Palestinian has ever been helped by this.

The RIGHT way to do it is ignore the explicit comparisons and stick to what makes you think they are comparable to begin with. Talk about the horror of abusing pets without acting like it’s the same as child abuse. Talk about the conditions of slaughterhouses without bringing up the Holocaust. Talk about the dangers of parental rights over their kids without bringing up slavery. Talk about the oppression of Palestinians without calling Israelis or Jews as a whole Nazis. Even if the comparison seems 100% apt, it serves no purpose for your case and you really just end up derailing yourself into defending the comparison rather than sticking to your issue.

Stick to the issue itself, and its “rightful place” alongside other more-widely-known-to-be-bad will happen organically. Wild comparisons are not needed.

1 Comment

  1. […] know, no matter how much I might support a cause, I just can’t get behind the ridiculous hyperbole and fearmongering and outright lies that a lot of them resort to. Especially when, as said, some of […]

    Pingback by Sure, Why Not? » Collateral Damage — December 20, 2014 @ 12:58 am

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